Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, Counseling, and College Student Personnel

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Hirschy, Amy

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Evans-Andris, Melissa

Committee Member

Pregliasco, Bridgette

Committee Member

Warnock, Deborah


First-generation college students; Low-income college students; Rural poor--Education


First-generation and low-income college students have been at a greater risk of attrition and have graduated at lower rates compared to other students for some time. Despite this, however, there are first-generation and low-income students who have been successful and have graduated. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of research focused on successful students, particularly those who are also from a rural background. The purpose of this study is to reveal what strategies, practices, actions, and behaviors low income, first-generation students from a rural background employ and engage in to persist and be academically successful. A qualitative methodology was chosen for this study, and more specifically, interviews of study participants were conducted. Single participant interviews were conducted in order to maintain the strict confidentiality of the participants and to obtain information that occurred at previous points in time. There were five major themes of the study. The first was the importance of the environment of the institution, followed the impact of one’s first-generation and low income status on their campus experiences. Next, a third theme was the strengths participants brought with them to campus from a rural background, followed by the significance of participants building their own support networks on campus. Finally, participants reported a great deal of support to attend college from a variety of sources. Related findings included the need to build their own support network on campus and that a rural upbringing provides students with many assets and strengths that can be beneficial at the university. Related findings also included that the university is generally doing relatively well for students who are from first-generation and low-income backgrounds, although improvements can still be made. Finally, the study found that participants, overall, were involved and engaged on campus. Student affairs professionals and higher education administrators must look for ways to further increase the likelihood that first-generation, low-income students from rural areas will persist, be academically successful, and ultimately graduate. Essentially, understanding the unique characteristics such as strengths and assets as well as challenges and obstacles is paramount in working with this student population.

Included in

Counseling Commons